Donate in Memory of Michael Chumley
Before my brother Jeff died by suicide, I never thought about the way I talked about suicide. Immediately following his death and for a long time after, I was so shocked that the terms used to describe how he died mattered little. But as time passes, and the shock subsides, I’ve discovered that I bristle each time I hear the expression “committed” suicide. Historically, in the United States and beyond, the act of suicide was deemed a crime. Until as recently as 1963, six states still considered attempted suicide a criminal act. This is so insanely absurd to me that I’m not going to expend any more energy on the history of the topic.
When you have occasion to talk about suicide, please try to refer to someone dying by suicide. By shifting our language around suicide, we have the power to reduce some of the massive shame carried by survivors of suicide. If you feel scared or helpless about what to say to someone you know who’s lost someone to suicide, take comfort in knowing that, by changing your language about suicide, you’re offering a counter cultural act of kindness. It might seem small but the interpersonal and political impact is nothing but huge.